The South American coati is usually active during the day, and spends its nights sleeping in trees. However, the males are often active at night. The coati spends much of its time foraging in trees, but can also be found searching for food on the ground. It uses its tail to help keep it balanced while moving around and travels between 1.5 and 2 kilometres a day looking for food (2). When disturbed in the trees, the South American coati typically jumps down and escapes across the ground (4).
The South American coati is an omnivore and eats a variety of fruit and invertebrates, including insects, spiders, scorpions, crabs, centipedes and millipedes. This species has also been known to eat vertebrates and carrion when available, and its diet varies with location and also with season (4) (6). The South American coati has been seen eating tarantulas after rolling them around to remove their irritating hairs (4).
The South American coati’s elongated snout is very useful for searching crevices and holes for food (2). Studies have shown that the South American coati is an important seed disperser. When it consumes fruits, the seeds pass through its digestive tract and are then released in its droppings in other places (6).
Adult male South American coatis live solitary lives while females and immature males travel in groups of up to 30 individuals. These groups vary in size depending on where they live, and the members of the group give constant vocalisations to stay in contact with each other (4). As in the closely related white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), adult male South American coatis are likely to be excluded from groups by collective aggression from the females. However, during the breeding season a single adult male is allowed into each female group (2).
Mating in this species usually occurs between October and February, with births occurring in March and April. The gestation period of the South American coati lasts 74 to 77 days. In captivity, litter sizes range from one to seven young, with three to four being the most common. Young South American coatis open their eyes at around ten days old. They can stand around day 19 and walk well by day 24, and their climbing abilities develop shortly thereafter, at around 26 days old. In the wild, female South American coatis leave their group to build a nest in a tree, which is where they give birth. After five to six weeks the female returns to the group with her young (4).
Potential predators of the coati include jaguars (Panthera onca), pumas (Puma concolor), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundis (Puma yagouaroundi) (4).